Photo by Oladimeji Odunsi

Is your background affecting your CV success?

‘Why fit in when you were born to stand out’ is a popular quote, but is this really a reality?  

 When it comes to hiring do recruiters want people to stand out? Or do they just want people to blend in? to hire someone who is like them? Similar sort of name, academic background, work history.. it’s a safe bet, its comfortable, and they can just fit right in, right?  

More and more job seekers I meet with have brought up concerns around unconscious bias  

‘My parents told me to use an English name on my applications as it will increase my chances of getting a job’  

‘I just can’t use my name Mohammed, I watched a documentary and it said Mohammed was the worst name you could put on your CV if you wanted a job’   

Last week I was also asked about it from the reverse side, a white female who had married someone of African heritage wanted to know if she should include a picture on her CV so recruiters would know she was white as she was worried her new African surname would be a barrier.  

I began to research into this idea of ‘whitening CV’s and found there had been a number of research studies which unfortunately proved that whitening your CV DOES increase your chances of landing an interview 

The BBC  led a research study in 2017 where they created two CV’s with the same skills and experience but changed the names, one was Adam and the other Mohamed. The fake candidates applied for 100 jobs as business managers in the competitive field of advertising sales in London. After two and a half months, Adam was offered three times more interviews than Mohamed. 

Forbes  also reported this year that companies are more than twice as likely to call minority applicants for interviews if they submit whitened CV’s and shockingly  this discriminatory practice is just as strong for businesses that claim to value diversity as those that don’t.  

The research highlighted that minority groups used different whitening techniques. For example Asian applicants tended to whiten their name e.g. change Lei to Luke, while black students toned down or omitted mentions of race from societies they were part of e.g. Afro-Caribbean Society (ACS)   

How do we bring about change?    

Employers need to admit to unconscious bias and put initiatives in place to tackle it e.g. blind recruitment where information about race, age, gender or social class are removed from CV’s before hiring managers see them.  

When it comes to employers prioritising matters regarding diversity, change  seems to be conveniently slow. 

 If you are worried your cultural background is having an impact on your CV/application success you can contact us via  we will provide you with a comprehensive review of your CV from one of our trained Career Consultants and we will also help you to explore options you can take to tackle unconscious bias.  

Written by Abigail Brown

One thought on “Is your background affecting your CV success?

  1. I have emailed my CV for a comprehensive review please. I would like to join and help battle the cultural background problems with recruitment.

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